NR 2002-16
April 15, 2002

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886


SACRAMENTO -- The pace of urbanization from 1998-2000 increased significantly in Placer County compared to 1996-98, according to a map released today by the California Department of Conservation. The map is designed to help local governments evaluate land-use planning decisions.

The Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program (FMMP), part of DOC's Division of Land Resource Protection, maps 44.5 million acres of California's public and private land to produce a major study every two years.

In Placer County, 3,840 acres of land were urbanized during the current mapping cycle compared to 2,607 acres during the 1996-98 period, a 47-percent increase.

Between 1998-2000, net totals of 1,162 acres of farmland, 2,106 acres of grazing land and 572 acres of land classified as "other" -- a category that includes wetlands, low-density "ranchettes" and brush or timberlands unsuitable for grazing -- were reclassified as urban land in Placer County.

Since the FMMP began tracking changes in 1984, there has been a 78 percent increase in urbanized land in Placer County, as more than 18,000 acres of farmland and grazing land have been converted. The acceleration of growth in western Placer has placed the county among the top 10 urbanizing counties statewide in terms of acreage developed since 1994.

Looking ahead, the county reports that 3,878 acres – mostly grazing land -- are committed to future non-agricultural use. Often, this is land earmarked for development. In some cases infrastructure development, such as sewer installation, may be underway.

Of the 411,531 acres mapped in Placer County, nearly 37 percent were farmland, 7 percent were grazing land, 10 percent were urban and 45 percent were "other" land. The remainder is water.

The map has been sent to Placer County planning officials. Interested parties such as the county Farm Bureau, Local Agency Formation Commission, planning consultants and area resource conservation districts have received copies.

"We do this mapping to help counties plan and prepare for their expected growth in the coming years," explained Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young. "This information is a tool that can help Placer County and other local governments balance the needs of a growing population with those of the agricultural economy."

Placer County's agricultural land will continue to face development pressure in the foreseeable future. The California Department of Finance projects that the county's population will grow from its current 235,600 to 358,500 by 2020.

According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the gross value of Placer County's agricultural production was about $60.5 million in 2000, ranking it 38th among the state's 58 counties.

Following are examples of agricultural land being urbanized in Placer County:

 Approximately 900 acres were developed for housing at Del Webb Sun City at

Lincoln Hills.

 About 170 acres were converted into the Turkey Creek golf course in Lincoln.

 Three large areas – 127, 135 and 160 acres – were developed for homes and apartments near the intersection of Highway 65 and Blue Oaks Boulevard.

 Shopping complexes that include the Galleria Mall and Home Depot were built along the Highway 65 corridor in Roseville.

 The Winchester Country Club in northern Auburn accounted for the conversion of approximately 195 acres.

The latest statewide study by the FMMP, Farmland Conversion Report 1996-98, was released in the fall of 2000. About 70,000 acres were urbanized throughout the state; more than 43,000 acres of the new urban land, an area about the size of the city of Modesto, were developed on agricultural land.

Through the Department of Conservation, the state offers programs that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use. The California Farmland Conservancy Program makes monies available to local governments, land trusts or resource conservation districts to purchase permanent agricultural conservation easements from willing landowners. These easements prohibit future development. Farmland Security Zone and Williamson Act contracts provide potential tax breaks to landowners who commit to keeping their land in agricultural use for periods of 20 or 10 years, respectively.

In addition to administering agricultural and open-space land conservation programs, the Department of Conservation ensures the reclamation of land used for mining; promotes beverage container recycling; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells; and studies and maps earthquakes and other geologic phenomena.